When Your Sex Toy Tattles On You

ex machina

Ava (Alicia Vikander) from the film “Ex Machina” (2015)

Does your sex toy phone home?

I know, a strange question, right?

If you don’t use a technological device inserted into your body to get off, then you have nothing to worry about, but if you use the We-Vibe 4 Plus, it’s a whole other matter.

I found an article at Fusion.net called This sex toy tells the manufacturer every time you use it.

According to the story, the device is…

a rubbery clamp that looks a little like the oversized thumb and forefinger of a Disneyland character pinching down. It comes in black, purple or pink and is billed as the “number one couple’s vibrator.” It has Bluetooth so that, once inserted into the desired part of your body, you can connect it to your smartphone and then use the We-Vibe app to control the intensity of its vibration.

In other words, once the device is in position, you or your partner, can use an app downloaded onto your smartphone to control the type of vibration and the intensity.

The device connects to the internet so that, in theory, you can insert the device into your body, then allow your partner to remotely control your experience.

However, what most folks using this product don’t know is that the We-Vibe 4 Plus also uses its internet connection to send highly personal data about you to the manufacturer:

When the device is in use, the We-Vibe 4 Plus uses its internet connectivity to regularly send information back to its manufacturer, Standard Innovations Corporation. It sends the device’s temperature every minute, and lets the manufacturer know each time a user changes the device’s vibration level. The company could easily figure out some seriously intimate personal information like when you get off, how long it takes, and with what combinations of vibes.

Yikes!

When called on it, Standard Innovation Corporation’s president Frank Ferrari confirmed that the company collects this information, saying that the data is used for market research purposes to help the company understand what levels and settings are most enjoyable by their customer base.

A lot of people don’t read the terms of use or privacy policy of the devices and apps they employ, but as it turns out, this app’s privacy policy does not explicitly state that the We-Vibe 4 Plus transmits data of your intimate encounters with it to its maker.

If you happen to be the proud owner of a We-Vibe 4 Plus, just use your smartphone in airplane mode when controlling the unit. That’ll keep it from phoning home.

You may be wondering why I’m writing about this. I could have just included a link and a message saying “read this” on my blog if I just wanted to pass this stuff along.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a small, science fiction story called The Perfect Woman, based on an article authored by E.J. Shumak called Machine Masters provide all written for SuperversiveSF.

The article contained YouTube videos highlighting the development of humanoid robots in Japan as well as a link to the CNET.com story called Can a robot mend a lonely heart. The latter described the current use of inflatable “sex dolls” and the possible future application of “smart” sex dolls, combining robot technology and artificial intelligence.

I just took it one step further in my “Perfect Woman” story by combining an artificial DNA-based intelligence with a completely realistic humanoid body that perfectly mimicked the personality and functioning of a human adult woman, with the “fembot” Akia at least simulating being in love with her human companion Max .

Now spin that a bit.

I can imagine there is a whole sub-culture of men (and for all I know, women) who are awaiting advancements in technology that would allow them to couple with a fairly realistic humanoid body, something that would do more than just “lie there”. Perhaps something that would even interact verbally as well as physically with the human “partner”.

But what if it operated something like the We-Vibe 4 Plus, that is, for whatever reason, maybe firmware updates, it had an internet connection, and during your use of the “device,” it too connected to the manufacturer and sent data about your erotic interactions with “her”. I can only imagine that the information collected would be much more explicit than what a computerized vibrator has access to.

Worse, this smartdoll would be among the collection of connected home and office devices referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), and there’s already plenty of concern about how IoT devices could be hacked and compromised.

When using a human prostitute, there’s always some risk of being infected by an STD, but with a smart sex doll, the device is the one catching a virus or some other form of malware. The very least that might happen is that a malicious entity on the web collects data on your sexual activities in addition to the manufacturer. That entity could also potentially take over your sex device while in use.

Come to think of it, the same thing might be possible with the We-Vibe 4 Plus right now. Your sexual experience could be in the hands of a complete stranger. It would be the most bizarre version of autoeroticism combined with a remote sexual interaction in the history of human sexuality.

The bright future of automated sexual innovation certainly has a very dark side to it. Maybe the moral of the story is to go old school if you use a machine for your sexual pleasure. A couple of batteries and three or four manual settings and you’re good to go, and no one can spy on your sexual activities unless you leave your bedroom curtains open.

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3 thoughts on “When Your Sex Toy Tattles On You

  1. The way most people I come in contact with who have stirred-up worries about privacy think, the surveillance they’re concerned about is an extension of the impulsive/reflexive hatred of government. When it comes to anything else, they find it too difficult to have the self discipline to be consistent or cautious. They’re fine with the wild* west of no rules. And, in fact, I find they have a wild west of conflicting thoughts inside their heads. I once sent a link to a respected news organisation to someone I know well (and who has no reason to suspect me of sending her something questionable or dangerous or viral). Since the article was on a topic related to Arabs or Muslims or refugees or something similar, she wouldn’t open it as she thought it would put her in danger of being suspected of unpatriotic sentiments. She thought that would make sense and be good (because Muslims are bad), while of course everything about her is perfectly fine; no one should think badly of her (she wouldn’t read the wrong things). She then reported to me that when she saw my email with the link, she heard helicopters overhead.
    * Some think it is a wild west (and okay) while others apparently think private people are like Jesus.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I wanted to say something more about the shows I mentioned in your other related story (the story you also named within this writing of yours). I pondered, in comments then, whether the sci-fi stories I’ve seen [and shared there], with such highly refined technology that the units seem like real people, are propaganda. I want to clarify. When I see these shows, the natural way to react to what we see, it seems to me when I think about it afterward, is to have empathy for the technology who are like people (and are acted by actual humans). And I do feel empathy and morality when I engage with the plots. So, we have this situation where our normal human feelings are being used to make machinery appear sympathetic. We don’t want to dull our normal feelings, but we also don’t want to confuse real people for machinery — or machinery for people or individuals with feelings. I personally think it is better not to watch shows like that, and especially not to have children see anything like it. And yet there are more and more projects to depict this, and I wonder if they are partly to promote what are and will be sales of such items (in real life). Concurrently, there is a “movement” for AI rights and research when we don’t even have it yet.

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    • I think films, TV shows, and print stories that depict machines with human-like qualities aren’t trying to necessarily make the audience feel sympathetic toward machines so much as to make a commentary on humanity. Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation is a perfect example. A humanoid machine with no ability to experience emotions nevertheless makes some rather pointed commentaries on humanity. Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek series served a similar function as a half-human alien, an outsider on both worlds, commenting on how he experiences human beings.

      As far as privacy goes, if you have any sort of web presence, you have no privacy. It’s an illusion. People just pretend it exists or operate in ignorance until a story such as the one involving We-Vibe 4 Plus is published.

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  2. I think you’re right that there is no certainty of privacy if you have the internet. At the same time, I don’t think the government is always watching me (if ever even). And if some part of it ever did look at something I was doing, that wouldn’t be a problem. I have absolutely no concern that it is seen what I read or say. [And that is not to mean I don’t think warrants are necessary for anything like research into my files. I am very pro-Constitution.] On the other hand, it’s quite likely that non-government actors are looking for whatever they can get. And since there are so many non-government actors, that’s much more likely to happen in fact. So, financial rip-offs are more of a concern than anything about the government. But it seems the same people (some anyway) who are afraid the government will come to get them are the ones who want the government to go get someone else. It’s one thing if what we want is for crime to be busted, something else to want to ignore constitutional freedom (such as religion).

    As to television, online series, movies, etc, to the extent they engender human understanding, that can be good. (And I do think that happened with the two shows I mentioned under the other story topic posting of yours). [Some Spock story lines are funny, when he thinks he’s being completely logical but it’s discernably about feelings. I’m thinking specifically of the latest movie.] Additionally, stories in print form would be different from depictions acted out with real human characters (as stand ins for machines), because they are humans — whereas print is print, and the reader knows… without the competing input of undeniable human fullness (despite efforts toward suspension of belief). There actually are people, though, who are pushing for AI “rights” (as if human rights), while that would clearly really only be proprietary rights (which could conceivably trump human or individual rights as money seems to trump human rights already far too often, such as in the definitions of speech and of corporations).

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